3 April 2019

Liberia: Who's Saying the Truth - Crane Currency or Moj?

Crane Currency, the company accused along with several current and past officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in connection to L$2.645 billion unaccounted for, issued a statement on March 21, describing as "inaccurate assertions" a story in the Daily Observer March 6 edition under the headlines "Government Files criminal charges against Crane Currency."

In the article, the paper quoted an indictment from Criminal Court 'C', claiming that Crane Currency received US$835,367.72, as kickback after it agreed to print excess Liberia dollar banknotes that amounted to L$2,645,000,000, which was reported to have been infused into the Liberian market.

Crane, in a statement that it has not been charged with any crime in Liberia, and at all times Crane has operated in full compliance with the law and rejects completely any allegation of wrongdoing.

However, the Ministry of Justice has rubbished the company's statement. It is not clear whether Crane Currency was served with the indictment and the writ of arrest by prosecutors. An official of the Ministry of Justice promised to "find out" and respond to an inquiry by the Daily Observer, but has not done so at the publishing of this story.

Others who have been already charged and are awaiting trial were former executive governor Milton Weeks; deputy governor for operations, Charles E. Sirleaf; Dorbor M. Hagba, director of banking; and Joseph Dennis, deputy director, internal audit; as well as, Richard H. Walker, director of finance.

Crane says it "fulfilled its contractual obligations as set out in two delivery contracts and two subsequent documented agreements between the CBL for Crane to deliver the finished banknotes, and every banknote delivered was properly invoiced and accounted for. Crane was paid in full the correct amount (and no more) as had been agreed with our Liberian customer for these contracted deliveries of banknotes, and there were no excess or improper payments made by the CBL or any other party.

"Crane challenges these allegations as strenuously as possible. In the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports."

This, among other claims by Crane Currency, the Ministry of Justice categorically refutes. "Crane Currency's claims that it did not print and deliver excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes to the CBL is not supported by the facts, as contained in the Reports of the Presidential Investigation Tam (TIP) and Kroll Associates, Inc. (Kroll)," the Ministry says.

In a statement issued late Monday, April 1, the Ministry of Justice said: "To the contrary, Crane Currency and officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), both current and past, were charged and indicted on March 4, 2019 for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy and Criminal Facilitation, in the printing of excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes.

"During the investigation by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), the airway and seaway bills, along with the packing lists, clearly established that Crane printed 18.6 billion Liberian dollar banknotes over and above the 15 billion Liberian dollar banknotes it was contracted to print.

"The case is scheduled for trial during the May Term at the Criminal Court "C", Temple of Justice.

"These claims by Crane Currency are totally without merit, not made in good faith, not supported by the records at the CBL and Crane Currency's own records, submitted to the PIT and Kroll.

"The Ministry of Justice wishes to emphasize that after receiving Crane Currency reaction to their Reports, both Kroll and PIT have stated that they stand by the Findings regarding the printing of excess Liberian dollar Banknotes by Crane Currency."

The indictment alleged that between April 2016 up to and including August 2018, the indicted CBL officials conspired with co-defendant Crane Currency to execute two contracts for the printing of Liberian dollar banknotes in the amounts of L$5,000,000,000 and L$10,000,000,000 prior to the approval or authorization by the Legislature.

"The printing of and payment for the excess amount of Liberian dollar banknotes and the concealing of the actual amount of Liberia dollar banknotes in the amount of L$2,645,000,000 was geared toward defrauding the CBL and laundering the said amount," the court document claimed.

The document further alleged that Hagba, Walker, Dennis and Crane Currency knew and had reason to know that L$2.645 billion banknotes from the two printing contracts executed by the CBL and Crane Currency for printing of L$15 billion banknotes, proceeded to and did provide false information and reports on the actual quantity of Liberian dollar banknotes printed, supplied and delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL.

Before that, the indictment claimed that Sirleaf, then serving as acting executive governor, made a request through former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who happened to be his mother, to the Legislature. The intent was to print L$5 billion banknotes to replace the legacy notes and that Houses, Senate, and Representative, through a joint resolution granted approval to the CBL for the printing.

Later, the document alleged, a contract was executed between the CBL and Crane Currency that was signed by defendant Sirleaf and with co-defendant Crane for the amount of US$5,210,000 for the L$5 billion banknotes to be printed. It said though the approval for the printing of the L$5 billion new banknotes was granted by the Legislature on May 17, 2016, that co-defendant Sirleaf had earlier executed and entered into a contract with co-defendant Crane on May 6, 2016, eleven days before the Legislature approved the request for the printing.

"Article II of the contract signed for the printing of the L$5 billion banknotes provides for the allowance of plus or minus 1.5% fluctuation in the actual quantity of banknotes to be printed due to practicalities of banknotes printing, and that the CBL and Crane Currency would treat such instances by mutual consent through the establishing of side letters," the indictment said.

But, it added the defendants printed L$5,146,250,000 new Liberian dollar banknotes with L$146,250,000 in excess of the approved amount. That through the contract amount for the printing of the L$5 billion was US$5,210,000, the defendants paid to Crane Currency US$5,611,469.58, an excess of US$401,469.58 when there were no side letters for the extra Liberia dollar banknotes printed as provided for in the contract.

The indictment further explained that in July 2017, the CBL, through Weeks, requested approval from the Legislature to print additional banknotes for the purpose of completely taking the legacy banknotes in circulation from the Liberian market to replace same with the newly printed banknotes in order to have a single type of Liberian dollar currency.

The Legislature, the record alleged, through a communication dated July 19, 2017, under the signatures of Mildred Sayon, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and Nangborlor Singbeh, secretary of the Senate, mandated the CBL to replace the legacy notes completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there would be a single type of Liberian dollar banknote, but that the appropriate details of the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes be submitted to the Legislature prior to the printing and minting of coins.

That contrary to furnishing the Legislature with the details requested, the document claimed that Weeks and Sirleaf had earlier executed a contract on June 12, 2017, with Crane Currency to print L$10 billion banknotes for the amount of US$10,121,689.20.

The document again alleged that, in the printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion banknotes, Crane Currency printed L$10,359,750,000 banknotes L$359,750,000 in excess of the contract amount and that the defendants paid US$10,555,587.34 to Crane Currency for the amount of Liberia dollar banknotes printed. "US$433,898.14 in excess of the amount to be paid for the printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion banknotes," the indictment alleged.

Though the total amount of Liberia dollar banknotes contracted by the CBL to be printed by Crane Currency was L$15 billion and "the defendant had reported that only L$15,506,000,000 banknotes, including the excess resulting from the practicalities of banknotes printing, "Packing lists submitted to the investigation revealed that L$18,151 billion banknotes were printed, supplied and received by the CBL by air and sea from July 14, 2016, to February 19, 2018. This leaves a variance of L$2.645 billion, for which defendants have failed to account," the court record alleged.

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